Reuters blog archive
At a Christian-Muslim conference in Geneva this week, participants agreed to build a network for "peace teams" to intervene in crises where religious differences are invoked as the cause of the dispute. The idea is that religious differences may not be the real problem in a so-called religious conflict, but rather a means to mobilise the masses in a dispute that actually stems from political or economic rivalries. (Photo: Coffins of two of 52 killed in al-Qaeda-linked attack last Sunday on a Baghdad church, 2 Nov 2010/Thaier al-Sudani)
If outside experts could help disentangle religion from the other issues, the argument goes, that could help neutralise religion's capacity to mobilise and inflame, in the hope of leading to a de-escalation of the crisis.
Is this idealistic? Maybe. However, given the number of crises throughout the world that have religion factored into the equation, it certainly seems worth the effort. Many of these conflicts are not simply battles between religious fanatics, as they may be presented, but calculated agitation by one group against another, usually for political or economic advantage. Some smokescreens are easy to see through, others almost impenetrable.
In his speech to the conference, Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal sketched out the problem facing religious experts who undertake such peace missions. "Before considering what to do and how to do it, we are faced with a series of complex social, political and religious puzzles which we must fully understand in order not to make things worse," he said.
(Photo: Christian and Muslim leaders at Nov 1-4, 2010 Geneva conference/WCC - Mark Beach)
Christian and Muslim leaders agreed on Thursday to set up "rapid deployment teams" to try to defuse tensions when their faiths are invoked by conflicting parties in flashpoints such as Nigeria, Iraq, Egypt or the Philippines. Meeting this week in Geneva, they agreed the world's two biggest religions must take concrete steps to foster interfaith peace rather than let themselves be dragged into conflicts caused by political rivalries, oppression or injustice.
Among the organisations backing the plan were the World Council of Churches (WCC), which groups 349 different Christian churches around the world, and the Libyan-based World Islamic Call Society (WICS), a network with about 600 affiliated Muslim bodies. They would send Christian and Muslim experts to intervene on both sides in a religious conflict to calm tensions and clear up misunderstandings about the role of faith in the dispute.
The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Ibrahim Kalin is senior advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. This article first appeared in Today's Zaman in Istanbul and is reprinted with its permission.
By Ibrahim Kalin
Has multiculturalism run its course in Europe? If one takes a picture of certain European countries today and freezes it, that would be the logical conclusion.
As the sun sets over a serene stretch of the mighty Ganges, a pair of smooth, grey dolphins arch gracefully out of the water, bringing hope that wildlife can again call India's great river home. (Photo: Ganges sunset in Allahabad, 31 Dec 2008/Jitendra Prakash)
Millions of Indians along the banks of the 2,500 km (1,550 mile)-long Ganges depend on the river, but unchecked levels of agricultural, industrial and domestic waste have poured in over the past decades, threatening the wildlife.
The West is floundering in immorality and has no right to criticise the Islamist movement Hamas over the way it governs the Palestinian territory of Gaza, a veteran leader of the militant group said. Hamas strategist Mahmoud Al-Zahar told Reuters in an interview that Islamic traditions deserved respect and he accused Europe of promoting promiscuity and political hypocrisy. (Photo: Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip October 23, 2010/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
"We have the right to control our life according to our religion, not according to your religion. You have no religion, You are secular," said Zahar, who is one of the group's most influential and respected voices.
Apart from the strikes against pension reform, one of the big stories in France that made headlines around the world these past few days has been about 12 people of African origin who reportedly jumped out of an apartment window in a Paris suburb to flee from a man they thought was the devil. A four-month old baby died in the incident. The initial stories spoke of satanic rituals, maybe something to do with voodoo, and a crazed collective leap into the dark. (Images: The Devil, by Polish sculptor Jan Graczyk, 2005/Michal Graczyk)
The drama was said to have begun when a woman awoke late at night to find her husband walking in the bedroom naked. As one report put it:
from Tales from the Trail:
Republicans may be abandoning Christine O'Donnell's U.S. Senate campaign. But she still has friends in high places -- really high places.
In fact, the Delaware Tea Party favorite is crediting divine intervention for the successes that her campaign has had.
(Photo: Bishops at Mass marking the end of the synod of bishops from the Middle East in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican October 24, 2010/Alessia Pierdomenico)
Pope Benedict called on Islamic countries in the Middle East on Sunday to guarantee freedom of worship to non-Muslims and said peace in the region was the best remedy for a worrying exodus of Christians.
He made his a appeal at a solemn mass in St Peter's Basilica ending a two week Vatican summit of bishops from the Middle East, whose final document criticized Israel and urged the Jewish state to end its occupation of Palestinian territories.
(Photo: United Nations General Assembly hall, 23 Nov 2006/Jérôme Blum)
The United Nations General Assembly passes a stack of resolutions every year and many of them go all but unnoticed. One such document just approved in New York established a new World Interfaith Harmony Week. High-minded resolutions put most news junkies to sleep, so it's probably no surprise this one got such scant media coverage (see here and here). But there's more to this one than meets the glazed-over eye.
The resolution, accepted by consensus on Wednesday, urged all member states to designate the first week of February every year as the World Interfaith Harmony Week. It asked them to "support, on a voluntary basis, the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during that week based on Love of God and Love of the Neighbour, or based on Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions."
Egypt has temporarily shut 12 satellite channels and warned 20 others for reasons ranging from insulting religions to broadcasting pornography, although an analyst said the real target seemed to be strict Islamic trends.
The government last week tightened TV broadcast rules, a move critics said was part of a crackdown on independent media before a parliament election in November and a presidential poll next year. Four channels were closed. The government denied any political motivation.